If you are unable to work due to an accident, illness, or disability, you may be entitled to compensation and/or disability benefits. For workplace injuries and illnesses, these benefits will be provided through the New York workers’ compensation system. Otherwise, you may be able to file for Social Security disability benefits or to pursue a personal injury claim against the person responsible for your injury.
For workers’ comp, Social Security disability benefits, and personal injury claims, you will need to prove that your injury or illness has limited your abilities. This may include showing that you are unable to perform your job duties or activities of daily living. A functional capacity evaluation or exam (FCE) is often used in these types of cases to provide an objective measure of an individual’s ability to perform certain tasks.
A FCE test is a physical assessment of one’s abilities to perform certain specific tasks.
Depending on your specific situation, a FCE may hurt or help your case. A skilled Albany workers’ compensation lawyer can guide you through the FCE process, working with you to help you get the maximum compensation that you are entitled to under the law.
What Is a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
A functional capacity exam is a medical assessment that is used to determine whether you are able to work or to return to work. Most often, a FCE is administered by a physical therapist or occupational therapist. The therapist will ask you to perform a series of standardized physical tests that are designed to determine your abilities as they relate to work.
FCEs may be performed multiple times over the course of a case. At the start of your claim, an FCE can be used to determine how an injury or illness affects your ability to work or go about your daily life. Later, an FCE may be used to assess whether you can return to work, and if so, what limitations you may have. Your attorney may order an FCE, or the insurance company may request an evaluation.
Each FCE is designed based on an individual’s specific job duties and injury. This means that you won’t be tested on things that aren’t related to your job description or your impairment. For example, if you work a desk job and never have to lift and carry heavy objects, you won’t have to perform tests that assess these capabilities.
Instead, the FCE evaluator will choose tests to evaluate your physical abilities in several areas, including:
- Physical strength
- Ability to lift objects over a certain weight
- Ability to carry objects
- Range of motion
- Other abilities that may be required for a particular job
Importantly, these tests are designed to evaluate your functional abilities. In other words, you won’t be asked to lift barbells to see if you are able to pick up heavy items. Instead, the test will utilize an object that is similar to something that you may need to lift and carry at your job, such as a box.
The results of the FCE will be used to determine (1) if you can return to work and if so, (2) in what capacity. In some cases, it can bolster your claim, proving that you are unable to work and require further medical treatment (such as physical therapy). However, an insurer may use an FCE as a way to dispute your claim, arguing that you are exaggerating your injuries or malingering.
A functional capacity evaluation is designed to give doctors, lawyers, and judges a quantitative measurement of a person’s ability to do physical activities. In turn, this information has a direct bearing on one’s ability to return to work within limitations or restrictions. FCEs are often ordered when a doctor feels that a patient may be ready to return to some sort of employment following an injury.
FCEs are most often utilized in workers’ compensation cases to determine an individual’s work capacity. They may also be ordered in personal injury lawsuits, and can also be helpful in Social Security Disability claims. Insurance companies or government agencies may be required to pay for an FCE.
What Happens at a Functional Capacity Evaluation?
Your lawyer or the insurance company may order an FCE if you suffered an illness or injury that is related to physical movement. Because functional capacity exams are based on physical abilities, they cannot be used to evaluate mental health conditions or other types of impairments, such as hearing or vision loss.
An FCE may take place over the course of one or two days. While a two-day exam may sound difficult, it can often be important to show that your functional abilities deteriorate over time. In other words, it can demonstrate that you cannot return to work on the same schedule because your ability to function decreases with sustained activity.
You should wear comfortable clothing for the exam. Bring any medications that you are currently taking and any assistive devices (such as a cane) that you are using.
When you arrive at the evaluation, you will meet the evaluator. They will be a trained medical professional, such as a physical or occupational therapist, or a doctor who specializes in rehabilitative medicine. The examiner will already have reviewed your medical records and be aware of your diagnosis, job duties, and any medical treatment that you have received or are currently receiving.
The evaluator will then conduct a variety of tests to measure your physical capacity as it relates to balance, ability to walk, positional tolerance, fine and gross motor skills, level of fatigue, and ability to tolerate sitting and standing. Many of these tests will involve using machines, tools, and specific motions. If the evaluation is related to a Social Security or personal injury case, then you may also be asked to do tests that will assess your ability to perform activities of daily living.
As you go through the exam, the evaluator will observe your movements and note signs of fatigue or pain. If your symptoms get worse or you get tired, you should tell the evaluator. Similarly, if you cannot perform or finish a particular test, let them know. All of these observations will be put into an FCE report, which will then become part of your workers’ compensation case.
Injured at Work? We’re Here to Help
Functional capacity evaluations are often a critical part of a workers’ comp claim, and may also be used in personal injury and Social Security disability cases. While the thought of taking these tests can be nerve-wracking, your attorney can help you through the FCE process. This may even include recommending the types of tests to be performed at the evaluation and interpreting the FCE report in a favorable way.
Based in Albany, NY, attorney Paul Giannetti represents individuals who have suffered all types of injuries. Our team is dedicated to fighting for the rights of injury victims and people with disabilities, working hard to get them the compensation that they deserve. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, call our law firm at 518-243-8011 or fill out our online contact form.